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#2920207 - 04/09/18 07:44 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: richforman]
Reezekeys Offline
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Originally Posted By: richforman
Been gigging in both bar/rock and wedding/casuals situations for 35 years (yikes!)

I'll add my own "yikes"... me too... 35 years (weddings, though I'm lucky to do 2 a year these days)! Ouch man...

Originally Posted By: richforman
and have never heard of the signals for sharps or flats. As some others have noted, I've seen easily recognizable hand signals for A, C, E, G, after that you'd have to get a little fancy, lol so it's probably easier to just yell it out (but you wouldn't feel as hip).

It seems odd to me to read this... bar bands I can understand not needing hand signals for keys, but weddings? Are you or were you always in a "set" band where everyone knew the keys of the tunes? I was in a set band but also subbed a lot, so I might be on a bandstand with people I've never met before – and during the dinner set when you're playing older/jazzier tunes, there's no guarantee the vocalists are gonna do a standard in the same key you've always played it. Plenty of standards are in keys of three or four flats, some even more than that. I've never heard a bandleader yell out a key! It's so much easier (and quieter!) to hold a few fingers up or down.

Originally Posted By: richforman
Seems strange to me to point up for flats, down for sharps, the opposite seems to make perfect sense, can anyone explain that to me?

As I think I might have posted elsewhere in this thread, flats up became a convention (in the NY area at least) because flat keys were much more common than sharp keys and it was easier to hold your hand pointing up! It dates to the "olden days" of club dates where there were a lot of horn players on a gig – and horn players prefer flat keys. So I'm told, anyway.

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#2920210 - 04/09/18 07:47 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Joe Muscara]
Wastrel Offline
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Originally Posted By: Joe Muscara
The problem with yelling out C G D E or B is that depending on the person's voice or enunciation and how loud it is, they can be very hard to tell apart since they all have the "E" part of the sound

Charley, Golf, Delta, Echo, Bravo?
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#2920212 - 04/09/18 07:47 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Reezekeys]
Legatoboy Online   content
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"As I think I might have posted elsewhere in this thread, flats up became a convention (in the NY area at least) because flat keys were much more common than sharp keys and it was easier to hold your hand pointing up! It dates to the "olden days" of club dates where there were a lot of horn players on a gig – and horn players prefer flat keys. So I'm told, anyway." - Reezekeys

This makes perfect sense to me!
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#2920227 - 04/09/18 08:35 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Joe Muscara]
MathOfInsects Offline
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Originally Posted By: Joe Muscara
The problem with yelling out C G D E or B is that depending on the person's voice or enunciation and how loud it is, they can be very hard to tell apart since they all have the "E" part of the sound (this was for chords, not keys). In my old band, I tried using sign language between a few of us but it never really stuck and I've forgotten those signs myself.


I've told this story before, but...
One day I had a rehearsal for a jazzbo thing, and someone said, "what's that chord supposed to be," and the drummer, who was loading in, dropped the name of a chord with many, many extensions. I thought he was mocking us for the way we were discussing chords, but it turned out he was serious and had just that day charted that song for a big band he was in.

With that fresh in mind, flash forward to the next night. Different band. We all hit the downbeat of a song that is "understood" by the free world to be in Eb, and it's a train wreck. I pull my hands off the board immediately, and the drummer mouths, "E! E!" And sure enough, they are doing the song in in E, not Eb.

Break comes and I go over to acknowledge the drummer on his apparent perfect pitch, and to say how I've had two drummers in two days with sophisticated harmonic awareness.

"Huh?" he says. "I was saying 'KEY! KEY!' because I could tell someone was in the wrong key."
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#2920229 - 04/09/18 08:44 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: MathOfInsects]
Reezekeys Offline
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I was subbing on a wedding years ago and the leader called Superstition. Cool, I pulled up my bitchen clav patch (at the time, anyway smile ) and proceeded to impress everybody with my skills... in the original key of Eb. After a while I noticed the band was not joining in... I looked over at the leader... he was the bass player and was holding a 4-string bass. Oops! I played a sub-dominant-leading tritone chord substitution circle of twelfths and eventually got to... naw, just kidding. I switched to E and we played the song. And everybody lived happily ever after!

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#2920235 - 04/09/18 08:50 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Reezekeys]
Josh Paxton Online   content
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In New Orleans the flats/sharps up/down thing works like this: Down = flats. Up = flats. Nobody plays in sharp keys.

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#2920236 - 04/09/18 08:53 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Josh Paxton]
MathOfInsects Offline
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LOL. I think it refers to they key signature though, and not the name of the key. So G would be "1 sharp," whichever direction that single finger would point.

Now you say, "See if you can guess which direction the single finger I am showing you, is pointing."

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#2920237 - 04/09/18 08:55 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Josh Paxton]
Josh Paxton Online   content
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My old cover band developed an extensive collection of hand signals to denote song titles for calling the next tune. Some were intuitive, like a hand cutting across the throat as if to say "no" followed by a palm-out "stop" motion for "Don't Stop Believing." Some were a little more obscure, and more or less made sense once you understood them, but you'd never guess them otherwise. But the one universal hand signal across the entire Bourbon Street cover band scene is, putting two fingers in your mouth like a gun and pantomiming blowing your brains out means "Sweet Home Alabama."

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#2920238 - 04/09/18 08:55 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Josh Paxton]
kbrkr Offline
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Originally Posted By: Josh Paxton
In New Orleans the flats/sharps up/down thing works like this: Down = flats. Up = flats. Nobody plays in sharp keys.


I always find the Keyboardists play the Flats and the Guitarists play the Sharps.

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#2920240 - 04/09/18 09:05 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Josh Paxton]
cedar Offline
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Originally Posted By: Josh Paxton
the one universal hand signal across the entire Bourbon Street cover band scene is, putting two fingers in your mouth like a gun and pantomiming blowing your brains out means "Sweet Home Alabama."


I want this to be true, but have my suspicions it's not.

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#2920245 - 04/09/18 09:14 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Piktor]
Delaware Dave Offline
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Originally Posted By: Piktor
Denis DiBlasio, former bari player with Maynard Ferguson, on Maynard's elaborate hand signals:



Piktor, Denis DeBlasio is my cousin.
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#2920246 - 04/09/18 09:15 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: kbrkr]
Josh Paxton Online   content
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Originally Posted By: cedar
I want this to be true, but have my suspicions it's not.


In fairness I can't say whether it's true any longer, but when I was a full-time member of that scene a few years back, it absolutely was.

Originally Posted By: kbrkr
I always find the Keyboardists play the Flats and the Guitarists play the Sharps.


[WARNING: Broad-brush stereotyping and unfettered snobbery ahead] Between tuning down and capo-ing up, guitarists may end up in any key, and they'll have no idea what key they're in, and even if they did they wouldn't know how many flats or sharps were in it, so flashing numbers would be worthless. Keyboardists just play in whatever key the tune gets called in, or just listen for wherever the singer or guitarist ends up and play it in that key. And the real ones do it without the transpose button! poke deadhorse wave

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#2920255 - 04/09/18 09:44 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: cedar]
cedar Offline
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Registered: 10/04/14
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Loc: New York
Originally Posted By: cedar
Originally Posted By: Josh Paxton
the one universal hand signal across the entire Bourbon Street cover band scene is, putting two fingers in your mouth like a gun and pantomiming blowing your brains out means "Sweet Home Alabama."


I want this to be true, but have my suspicions it's not.


Gives me an idea for another thread: identifying tunes that musicians particularly dread depending upon their location.

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#2920282 - 04/09/18 10:54 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: cedar]
Reezekeys Offline
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Ha! A friend of mine and bandmate from the Liza Minnelli gig we did together, ahem, a "few" years ago, Russ Kassoff, seems to have come up with the real explanation of sharps/down & flats/up. I'm sure he wouldn't mind my reposting his response on the FB thread I started (which I learned is invisible to anyone not a member):

"I used to ask that q when there were tons of club dates. Turns out the accepted practice of FLATS UP and SHARPS Down only existed in the lucrative NY Society and Club date world because the leaders were all getting VERY OLD, and it was much easier to signal up than down. Arthritis. Hardly any tunes in sharp keys back in those days. A couple of tunes in G and that was cause for a hand sprain. Think Lester Lanin. He probably couldn't reach down to tie his shows - or anything below the waist! For reasons of logic - EVERYWHERE ELSE - including NJ, CT and California - flats were down and sharps were up. Nowadays Alexa just tells you what key the next tune is in. Really Loud with a booming disco beat."

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#2920290 - 04/09/18 11:31 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Josh Paxton]
slowtraveler Offline
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Registered: 03/07/13
Posts: 403
Loc: Boston, MA
Originally Posted By: Josh Paxton
In New Orleans the flats/sharps up/down thing works like this: Down = flats. Up = flats. Nobody plays in sharp keys.

In New Orleans, even the bar mitzvah boy knows the drill...


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#2920293 - 04/09/18 11:38 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Reezekeys]
El Lobo Offline
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Registered: 12/23/14
Posts: 1104
Originally Posted By: Reezekeys
I was subbing on a wedding years ago and the leader called Superstition. Cool, I pulled up my bitchen clav patch (at the time, anyway smile ) and proceeded to impress everybody with my skills... in the original key of Eb. After a while I noticed the band was not joining in... I looked over at the leader... he was the bass player and was holding a 4-string bass. Oops! I played a sub-dominant-leading tritone chord substitution circle of twelfths and eventually got to... naw, just kidding. I switched to E and we played the song. And everybody lived happily ever after!
Stevie Wonder recorded many tunes in Eb. It puts the chords, melody and riffs on the black keys. I learned Superstition in Eb by playing along to the recording, then come to find out that every band I've played the tune with does it in E because that's where the guitarist wants it. I gave up explaining that it should be in Eb because it's a keyboard song. Recently, because a guitar player friend likes to do "I Wish" at the weekly jam, I learned that tune - bass line, chords, horn lines. Of course it's in Eb (minor). The signature bass/clav line is on the black keys. And of course my guitarist friend does it in Dm. Turns out ok because that puts the bass/chords/horn lines on white keys. But it does violence to the composer's original intentions. smile

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#2920297 - 04/09/18 11:46 AM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: El Lobo]
Wastrel Offline
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Registered: 05/13/09
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Loc: Los Angeles
Originally Posted By: El Lobo
Stevie Wonder recorded many tunes in Eb. It puts the chords, melody and riffs on the black keys.

I've always assumed that playing the black keys made it easier for him to feel the keyboard without being able to see it.
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#2920323 - 04/09/18 12:26 PM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Wastrel]
El Lobo Offline
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Registered: 12/23/14
Posts: 1104
Originally Posted By: Wastrel
Originally Posted By: El Lobo
Stevie Wonder recorded many tunes in Eb. It puts the chords, melody and riffs on the black keys.

I've always assumed that playing the black keys made it easier for him to feel the keyboard without being able to see it.
I've always thought the same thing but was hesitant to say it publicly because I really don't know how he experiences the keyboard. Whenever I figure out a Stevie tune on the keyboard, though, I think to myself that he must have come up with those patterns and lines because that's how he literally "feels" the music.

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#2920339 - 04/09/18 01:15 PM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: El Lobo]
Reezekeys Offline
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Loc: NYC area
Isn't the reason it gets played in E so much because a lot of bass players can't make the low Eb? Any guitarist I know can play the tune in either key – it's just that you wouldn't have that nice low Eb in the bass if the bass player uses a 4-string (unless they detune or have one of those extender thingies).

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#2920349 - 04/09/18 01:27 PM Re: "The Code 2" - A Glossary of Musician-Hand-Signs [Re: Reezekeys]
El Lobo Offline
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Registered: 12/23/14
Posts: 1104
You don't have that nice low Eb in both the bass and the guitar – unless the guitar is one of those SRV/Jimi wannabes who tunes down a half step.

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